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Hogs, Aggies familiar with adversity

by Chip Souza | September 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Helmets are shown, Saturday, September 10, 2022 during a football game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two teams salvaging their seasons in nonconference games at home last Saturday jump start their SEC season Saturday at a neutral site.

The nationally 10th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks of Fayetteville and the 23rd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies of College Station play their annual Southwest Classic SEC West game at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN at the Jerry Jones owned Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

It marks Arkansas' first 2022 trip away from Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the Aggies' first venture away from Kyle Field.

Coach Sam Pittman's Razorbacks and Coach Jimbo Fisher's Aggies both arrive in the Dallas Metroplex ranked but recently feeling more rank than ranked.

After a swaggering summer headlined war of words with Alabama Coach Nick Saban, Fisher was silenced by Appalachian State. The Mountaineers upset his Aggies, 17-14 two Saturdays ago.

Responding to the supposedly inexplicable, the Aggies last Saturday defeated the then 13th-ranked and still Top 25 (25th) Miami Hurricanes, 17-9.

Meanwhile Pittman's, 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC Razorbacks, initially defeating a strong then 23rd-ranked Cincinnati team and impressively beating SEC foe South Carolina, variously trailed down a division FCS member Missouri State, 17-0, and 27-17 before rescuing a 38-27 triumph last Saturday.

Given how an overtime upset administered by Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock 2012 defined John L. Smith's 4-8 Razorbacks and massive upsets by North Texas in Fayetteville in 2018 and San Jose State and Western Kentucky in 2019 in Fayetteville Arkansas defined the consecutively abysmal 2-10, 2-10 Chad Morris era, Pittman's Hogs faced an ominous precedent had they lost at home to a 26-point underdog.

Whereas the Morris teams folded like an accordion, 44-17 and 45-19 upon trailing North Texas and Western Kentucky early, Pittman's Razorbacks rallied and prevailed.

Upon retrospect, Appalachian State and Missouri State both were far more than oddsmakers projected.

Appalachian State first burst into national prominence as the 2007 FCS David upsetting the Big Ten Goliath Michigan Wolverines in the Big House at Ann Arbor.

The Mountaineers have grown to FBS status in the Group of Five too often disrespected yet without doubt emerging Sun Belt Conference. They nearly upset Big 12 power Oklahoma State last year in Stillwater, Okla., and opened this season battling ACC power North Carolina, to the 63-61 wire in Chapel Hill, N.C. before upending the Aggies.

The Mountaineers may well be better than Miami, still in the Top 25 but recently living more off past prowess than consistent performance.

Nevertheless, the Hurricanes ranked 13th when A&M showed its mettle rebounding from its fall to the Mountaineers.

Missouri State, nationally sixth in the FCS, coached by former Arkansas offensive wizard Bobby Petrino and loaded with plenty of talented former Division I players via the transfer portal, also vastly exceeded oddsmakers reputations.

Overcoming three devastating turnovers to prevail proved a gut check the Hogs passed admirably.

Both teams come to Jerry World already overcoming unanticipated adversity.

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